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Views on Bilingualism in the United States

A Selective Historical Review
Jill Fitzgerald
Associate Professor
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
As the United States population becomes increasingly diverse,
debates over bilingualism have intensified. For example, many ask
should English be declared the nation’s official language? Or should
bilingualism be encouraged? The present article offers a contextual
historical sketch as a backdrop to current national bilingual issues.
Salient historical events and selected factors are reviewed that reveal
views on bilingualism in the United States from pre-colonial times to
the present. A pattern in the development of views of bilingualism is
identified. From pre-colonial times to the late 1800s, there was
generalized acceptance, perhaps even embracement, of bilingualism.
From around 1880 until about 1920, English-only sentiments grew
markedly. This period was filled with strident and overt challenges to
bilingualism. From the 1920s to today, the debate has continued, but
on the whole, supporters of bilingualism have been less publicly
active. Finally, I summarize factors associated with various attitudes in
our history and try to understand our current situation in relation to
these past occurrences.

Background and Purpose
Ethnic and racial diversification in the United States is
increasing. Currently, more than 30 million language-minority
individuals reside here, with projections to reach about 40 million by
the year 2000 (Trueba, 1989). In New York and several states in
the West and Southwest, language-minorities constitute more than
23% of the state population over age 4 (Trueba, 1989). Currently,
there are about 2.3 million students in our schools identified as
having “limited English proficiency” (United States Department of
Education, Office of the Secretary, 1992). About 80% of these
students are Hispanic (Trueba, 1989). In California, about 50% of
all Californian students speak a language other than English as their
primary, or only, language. The figure is projected to reach about
70% by 2030 (Garcia, 1992a). Notably, as non-white and Hispanic
and Asian/Pacific Islander presence in schools increased
considerably from 1976 to 1986 (up by 6% and 116%,


Bilingual Research Journal, 17:1&2, Winter/Spring 1993

respectively), Caucasian and non-Hispanic enrollment decreased by
13% (Garcia, 1992a).
As our population has become more diverse, debates
surrounding bilingualism have intensified. Should English be
declared the nation’s official language? Should languages other than
English be prohibited in government and public services and
schools? Should language-minority students be taught in their
native language or in English only or in both languages? In short,
should bilingualism be simply allowed, or should it be supported
and encouraged? Or, on the other hand, should it be prohibited
outright or simply discouraged?
Perhaps through a better understanding of prior generations’
experiences with, and reactions to bilingualism, more insight can be
gained into contemporary attitudes. The purpose of this article is to
offer a contextual historical sketch as a backdrop to current national
bilingual issues. Specifically, salient historical events and selected
factors are reviewed that mark positions on bilingualism in the
United States from pre-colonial times to the present. A pattern in
the development of views of bilingualism is identified. Major
historical delimiters in that development are noted, and potential
factors related to shifting views are drawn out. Finally, historical
patterns are assessed in relation to the present-day situation.
I wish to emphasize that this article merely provides a
framework to show superordinate patterns of views over time; it
does not offer in-depth rich elaboration. Nor does the article
address the potential symbolisms involved in controversy over
bilingualism. One symbolism, for example, is that language can
represent cultural identity, and opposition to bilingualism can reflect
deep-seated language prejudice and xenophobia. Readers who
desire fuller details on the major points in the present article and/or
on related issues such as potential symbolisms involved in debates
over bilingualism might be interested in further reading of entries in
the reference list, perhaps beginning with the comprehensive texts
by Crawford (1989; 1991; 1992a,b) and Hakuta (1986).
From Protection to Controversy
The overarching form of the development of views on
bilingualism in the United States is movement from early and
perhaps general acceptance of bilingualism, at least from the 1600s,
to gradual emergence of English-only sentiments, beginning most

had no early language policies (Heath. bilingualism was politically protected at least from early post-Columbus times until the late 19th century.Views on Bilingualism in the United States 37 visibly around 1880. people were to share the English language (Heath. and newspapers encouraged the study and maintenance of non-English languages (Casanova & Arias. 1986. it was respected and appreciated. 1989). between 200 and just over 500 languages in about 15 language families were spoken in the land (Casanova & Arias. Bilingualism continued to be common into the mid19th century. 1993. at least 18 non-native American languages were spoken on Manhattan Island (Crawford. Heath. 1993. 1981). bilingualism continued to be supported and was considered an advantage for everyday trading. 1983. and not just in educated classes. Castellanos. Since language is strongly tied to heritage. One view of the reason for political protection is that pilgrims coming to the continent saw preservation of heritage as an individual right. There was tacit agreement that. dating back to 1776. intensifying from about the 1920s on. One was that the Continental Congress tried to accommodate non-English speakers. 1987. with the possible exception of the Native Americans and African-American slaves. However. For example. social and religious organizations. Continuing into the mid1880s. native-language loyalty would also likely be considered a right (Crawford. Trueba. many of its official documents were published in German and French. all . to increasingly heated controversy over bilingualism. newspaper advertisements for runaway servants (both African-American and Caucasian) frequently referred to their multilingual abilities (Crawford. including the Articles of Confederation (Crawford. 1989). Intellectual and political leaders. 1989). the English as they began to settle their New World colonies. For example. Early Times Until the 1880s From pre-colonial days into the mid-1800s. bilingualism was not only widespread. teaching. 1992). Further. 1976b). 1989). 1983. 1992. 1976a. Heath & Mandabach. Unlike the Spanish who created specific language policies for their New World holdings. there were several significant Signs of the social and political rights involved in embracing bilingualism. Before the first Europeans arrived on the continent. San Miguel. when New Netherland was given to the British crown. In 1664. Heath. 1981). 1989). Shortly after the acquisition of Louisiana. and spreading the gospel (Castellanos. in the mid-18th century.

1971). 1993. After debate. A third was that until the late nineteenth century. the language of the dominant Anglo-Saxon race. and Neapolitans immigrated. and even monolingual education in the native language. Another was from about 1880 to 1900. as the language(s) of instruction (Crawford. generations of people had adopted English as their only language. German Americans tried to maintain their language through schools which used German. p. 1986. as the United States Constitution was being drawn. United States Department of Education. Shifts in attitudes were likely related to several factors including the following. Also. 1986). Spanish. when large numbers of Irish. 1989. as well as reasons for the loyalties. many immigrant groups. Kloss. Dutch. Germans. the English had governed the country since colonial days. particularly German (Hakuta. was pervasive (Leibowitz. 1969). during much of the nineteenth century. Sicilians. Swedes. Russian Jews. many having lost the languages of their forefathers. A second was that. the founding fathers declined the proposal on the grounds that it was “incompatible with the spirit of freedom” from which the Constitution was borne (Hakuta. 17:1&2. waned. John Adams proposed that English be the official United States language. bilingual education. 1991). Office of the Secretary. Norwegians. An “Americanization” campaign was launched. 1880s through the Early 1900s In the 1880s. Winter/Spring 1993 federal laws pertinent to the territory were printed in both French and English (Leibowitz. some states passed laws which prevented interference with public school instruction in a non-English language. originating loyalties to native languages. or both German and English. 165). Poles. Over time. and fluency in English. It would appear their language became dominant at least in part because of their majority presence and their power and authority. one immigration peak period had just occurred and another was in process (Frick. and support for bilingualism began to waiver. For instance. Tamura. Czechs. incorporated mother-tongue instruction in their schools (Casanova & Arias. Hakuta. including Italians. After almost 400 years of non-native-American presence on the continent. Second. 1993). in the late 1600s. 1993. attitudes began to change. English nativism intensified. when large numbers of Chinese immigrated.38 Bilingual Research Journal. and Germans. became associated with patriotism (Casanova & Arias. 1971. 1990). One was from about 1830 to 1854. French. 1986). First. The “melting pot” . Beginning in the mid-1800s.

Nebraska. 1971. Meyer v. 1989. Fourth. 1993). industrial economy in which English literacy and orality were indispensable in major sectors of the work force. Trueba. the requirement was relaxed somewhat to allow in Puerto Rico Spanish mainstream instruction in first through fourth grade. Spanish and English in fifth grade. over 1. 85). 1982). 1989). with the rise of anti-German feelings and the advent of the American Protective Association (Baron. 1989. p. 1989. 1986). Leibowitz. Heath. 1990. Crawford. Around 1900. 1973. Drake. in spite of the fact that the Puerto Ricans were entirely Spanishspeaking (Resnick. 1971. The first restrictive immigration laws appeared in 1882. through ensuring a common language base throughout the country. the SpanishAmerican War may have led to greater desires to breed a spirit of nationalism. Third. Between 1919 and 1950. p. directed primarily against Chinese. of mainstream North America. the United States government imposed English as the mainstream school language in the new colonies. and World War I was imminent. In 1916. The Nationality Act of 1906 was the first legislation requiring immigrants to speak English to become naturalized citizens (Leibowitz. Fifth. and thousands of cases were litigated citing non-English language as a sign of “clear and present danger” (Trueba. This lasted until 1940. suspicions about allegiances were fueled by language differences. Puerto Rico and the Philippines. By 1923 34 states had legislation prohibiting public instruction in languages other than English (Acuña. Some important events signaled the growing presence of antibilingual attitudes from the late 1880s into the early 1900s. 1976a. as the 20th century began. North American society had begun a transformation from a predominantly agricultural and lowskilled labor economy to a more urbanized. Andersson & Boyer. Following the Spanish-American War. the first large-scale United States adult English instruction was undertaken (Crawford. Intolerance for German mainstream instruction in schools began in the late 1880s and peaked around 1919. In a landmark 1923 case.Views on Bilingualism in the United States 39 metaphor for life in North America implied that the large numbers of recent immigrants should conform to the ways. Kloss. 24). but only English thereafter. Hakuta. 1977. 1981.000 individuals were jailed for subversive speech. a parochial school teacher “was charged with the crime of reading a bible story in German to a ten-year-old child” (Crawford. at least in part. the language. and therefore. 1989). Although the United States Supreme Court subsequently declared as .

In 1975 OCR published standards for school systems to ensure their compliance with the now famous Lau v. color.40 Bilingual Research Journal. 1991). the core issue of concern has become increasingly explicit: Should individuals maintain and use original native language alongside English. for the first time ever. 1991). court decisions. in 1970. For example. OCR was evidently more proactive on language-minority issues. Japanese-language schools were closed (Crawford. or sympathetic toward. Finally. acts. English-as-a-second-language (ESL) methodology was developed. prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race.1900s. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was set up to oversee compliance with Title VI. OCR sent a memo to school districts stating that OCR policy required effective instruction for language-minority students (Crawford. state policies. Nichols decision . During the 1930s. 17:1&2. Perhaps the most important event was the establishment in 1964 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. and funding decisions have occurred since the mid-1960s. bilingualism versus instances which undercut it. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. 1989. or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal monies (National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education. and funding decisions. The controversy can be represented by cases which might be interpreted as supportive of. and was therefore viewed by bilingual advocates as supportive of their cause. 1989). Winter/Spring 1993 unconstitutional laws prohibiting the use of foreign languages in schools. Federal Policies. acts. At least five categories of such cases emerged from the historical literature: Federal policies. historical highlights in each of the five areas will be shown. In its formative years. Table I shows that earlier events tended be more supportive of bilingual issues. the charge itself is a telling indicator of the climate with regard to bilingual issues. political organizations. while later ones have tended to undercut them. and bilingual education programs and their evaluation and research. Acts and Funding Decisions. In the following sections. or should English supplant the native language? Virtually no one argues that English should not be learned and used. during World War II. A number of significant federal policies. Mid-1900s to the Present Since the mid.

For the last decade or so. 1986). The compliance standard that evolved prescribed transitional-bilingual education and specifically rejected ESL instruction (Hakuta. In 1981. worked against bilingual education (1988) English Proficiency Act (1988) Title VII reauthorized. OCR withdrew the Lau Remedies and replaced them with a series of nonprescriptive measures (National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.Views on Bilingualism in the United States 41 Table 1 Federal Policies. OCR has not been as active in language-minority protection. . partly because many regarded them as levying undue federal influence over what should have been state and local policies. Acts. OCR reviews schools on a case-by-case basis. and Funding Decisions More Supportive (1964) OCR established (1968) Title VII and OBEMLA established Less or Nonsupportive 1970 OCR Memo (1974) Title VII reauthorized (1974) EEOA established (1975) OCR’s Lau Remedies (1978) Title VII Reauthorized but weakened support for bilingual education (but added literacy) (1981) Lau remedies replaced (1984) Title VII reauthorized but began funding SAIPS (1980-88) Secretary of Ed. these so-called “Lau Remedies” became fiercely debated. However. 1991). weakened native-language instruction (discussed below). Today. William Bennett.

the Bilingual Education Act was reauthorized and amended to drop the poverty criterion and to require schools receiving grants to include instruction in native language and culture as necessary for effective education (Crawford. with families who had incomes below $3. The next three reauthorizations of Title VII (in 1978. 1989). The 1978 reauthorization amended language stated that native language would be used strictly to transition into English. 1984. along with monies diverted from Title VII’s teacher-training account. While this act did not require schools to use the children’s native language. 70% to 75% of the new money. 1989). 1983). including those who needed help reading and writing English. Although monies authorized for the current spending period (1989-1993) total about $674. The 1984 reauthorization committed funds to Special Alternative Instructional Programs (SAIPS) that used no native-language instruction. 1989).5 million (Hakuta. and all restrictions on support for alternative methodologies (alternatives to bilingual programs) were lifted. and it was the first major federal effort to address educational problems of language-minorities (Rotberg. students could be enrolled in bilingual education programs for no longer than three years. it was called the Bilingual Education Act. was reserved for English-only methods. Winter/Spring 1993 Any program or method is accepted that ensures language-minorities effective educational participation. In 1968.42 Bilingual Research Journal. A prior 4% cap on English-only programs was removed. however. 1982). Federal shift in position on bilingual issues can also be seen in changes made in monies directed towards special educational programs for language-minorities. The act was to support programs for language-minority children in schools having high language-minority concentrations. the Act was also expanded to cover all language-minority children. First year funding was $7. 17:1&2. The 1988 reauthorization went even farther to undercut bilingualism.000 a year (Crawford. this . Title VII. and 1988). In 1974. 1986). Further.6 million. Although $10 million was added to the budget. even if speaking/listening abilities were adequate (Crawford. Notably. the Bilingual Education Act (an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) was enacted after substantial political organization efforts by the Hispanic community (Santiago. had the net effect of dramatically weakening support for native-language instruction and boosting monies for English-only programs.

In 1971. several events signify state-level eroding support for bilingual education (Crawford. 1980). Commensurate with the launching of Sputnik. 1990).Views on Bilingualism in the United States 43 figure is down from about $679. attitude. 1993). in recent years. State Policies/Laws. 1989). Finally. 1989). while bilingual education programs for languageminorities have simultaneously been disfavored (Crawford. in 1975. Department of Education. Proposition 63. He made public speeches attacking the Bilingual Education Act. 1989). However. 1991. and in 1985. Other notable federal events from the 1960s to the present include the following. Massachusetts was the first state to enact a law promoting bilingual education (Crawford. 1989). 1989). the California State Department of Education began an innovative Case Studies in Bilingual Education project. Also. and again in 1987. in 1988. Some authors have pointed to an apparent “schizophrenic” U. the Congressional Hispanic Caucus brought special monies to address language-learning issues. William J. They sponsored the English Proficiency Act which was enacted as part of an omnibus education measure and authorized $25 million a year for adult ESL programs (Crawford. Secretary of Education. Bennett. has sometimes been supported. the National Defense Education Act of 1958 authorized funds to thousands of students for foreign language training (U. and in 1981. over this century. he appointed antagonists of bilingual education to the National Advisory and Coordinating Council on Bilingual Education. S. whereby foreign-language learning for native-born. In 1986. in a referendum.7 million in the previous period (1984-1988) (Chapman. Simultaneously. Congress amended the Voting Rights Act to require bilingual ballots in jurisdictions where language minorities exceeded 5% of the population and where illiteracy rates exceeded national norms (Lessow-Hurley. Table 2 shows that until the mid-1980s there were not many notable state-level activities. predominately Englishspeaking individuals. Simon. but solely for support of learning English. was a vocal antagonist of bilingual education. Throughout the Reagan presidency.S. In 1974 the Equal Education Opportunities Act (EEOA) was enacted (Crawford. Californians voted 3-to-i to declare English California’s official language. 1989). A section of the Act required schools to work to overcome language barriers that interfered with language-minority students’ learning (Crawford. California Governor Deukmejian vetoed a bill to .

p. It is significant that few legal cases and no highly pivotal ones . law (1981) California State Dept. and West Virginia) still had laws prohibiting school instruction in languages other than English. 1989). the laws apparently were not enforced (Crawford. North Carolina. 1989). 1989. As Table 3 shows.44 Bilingual Research Journal. several landmark cases were brought to the court system during the 1970s and early 1980s. seven states (Alabama. In 1987 and 1988. enacted bilingual educ. began innovative Case Studies in Bilingual Education (1986) CA:Proposition 63 (1986) CA Governor Deukmejian vetoed bilingual education extension bill (1987) Governor Deukmejian again vetoed (1987-88) Eight more states passed “Official English” legislation (1990) By now. 17:l&2. 52). a law which many considered “the nations’ most detailed and prescriptive bilingual education law” (Crawford. Similarly. eight more states passed “official-English” legislation (Crawford. 1990). Winter/Spring 1993 Table 2 State Policies/Laws More Supportive Less or Nonsupportive (1971) Mass. by 1989. On the other hand. Oklahoma. 22 states had statutes permitting or requiring nativelanguage instruction (1990) One state still prohibited native-language instruction extend the bilingual education law. of Ed. 22 states had statutes expressly allowing or requiring native-language instruction (August & García. 1990). Arkansas. However. Nebraska. by 1990. Court Decisions. Delaware. and by 1990 only West Virginia retained its law (August & García.

see Crawford. Chinese public school students held that the San Francisco Unified School District had no special programs to meet their linguistic needs and that they therefore had an educational disadvantage (Crawford. the schools were required to provide assistance. The decision was upheld in 1974 by a Circuit Court of language have been brought to the courts now for over a decade. Initially. Later. although bilingual education was not mandated. the judges on the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals used the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 and outlined three criteria for serving language-minority students: Instruction . or some other possibility. 1989). In 1972. the Supreme Court found for the plaintiffs. 1989). (For a few examples of late-1980s and early-1990s court cases on the question of minority-language rights. In making its decision. A final significant court case was Castañeda v. but it could be ESL pullout instruction. That is. race. federal district courts found for the defendants. bilingual instruction. 1992b. Nichols (1972 & 1974) Serra v. Nichols was the first class action suit brought to court regarding educational programs for language minorities. a federal judge ordered the schools to provide instruction in the children’s native language as part of a desegration plan. Pickard. The first court mandate for bilingual education came in Serra v. or color. the Court relied on the 1970 OCR memo and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of national origin.) Lau v. Portales (1981) Castañeda v Pickard surrounding bilingualism or English.Views on Bilingualism in the United States 45 Table 3 Court Decisions Both Less or Nonsupportive More Supportive (1970 & 1974) Lau v. In 1981. Portales Municipal Schools (Crawford.

S. I. D. English” organization gained momentum. bilingual education was not required. Although the organization firmly supports bilingual education. The National Association for Bilingual Education was formed in 1975 and currently has about 4. One of the most notable political groups figuring in the bilingual versus English-only language issue was La Raza Unida party. U.500 members. they were called to testify before Congress in 1983 when President Reagan worked to cut the federal budget for bilingual education and to relax regulations on schools. 1989). based lobby advocating tighter restrictions on immigration (Crawford. ordinance. a Washington. In 1970. Texas. formed political coalitions and lobbied for federal support of bilingual education (Crawford. as its title implies. often portrayed as a militant Mexican-American group. English became an influential force on the national scene. program.S. From 375 founding members. 1989). English was an offshoot of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). For example. Expanding concern about teaching English to language-minority students through the mid-1900s led to the formation of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in 1966 (see Table 4). 17:1&2. order. 1989).S. effective program implementation with adequate resources and personnel. Its proponents opposed bilingual education. The three criteria laid out in this case still remain in effect today. In 1983. U. The amendment forbade the making or enforcement of law.46 Bilingual Research Journal. Again. Between 1986 and 1988 the organization supported efforts in 40 states to make English the official state language (Casanova & Arias. official language. the “U. and program evaluation (Crawford. Political and Other Organizations. The organization was founded by Senator S.S. it does. language-minority groups. or policy requiring use of a language other than English. Winter/Spring 1993 based on sound educational theory. the organization has grown to over 23. La Raza Unida boycotted schools to protest unequal treatment of Spanish-speaking students. Hayakawa to lobby for a constitutional amendment making English the U. 1993).C. in Crystal City. During the civil rights movement. but some sort of special provisions had to be made.000 today. regulation. focus on English learning. . most notably Hispanics. They also won a majority of school board seats and immediately thereafter instituted a bilingual education program in their schools.

NCTE. The organization was founded by The League of United Latin American Citizens and the Spanish American League Against Discrimination. including: The National Association for Bilingual Education. English Plus continues to be the main national effort to combat the English Only movement. LSA. and Illinois. In 1987 the English Plus Information Clearinghouse (EPIC) was established. National Council of Teachers of English. have left the organization because of undercurrents of racism (Crawford. although significant figures. In 1985. including in 1988. English (1985) English plus launched (1987)English Plus Information Clearing-house founded (1987) NABE. Florida. which rank in the top five states for number of language-minority students. Several educational groups support its goals. its Hispanic President. MLA. Linda Chavez.Views on Bilingualism in the United States More Supportive 47 Table 4 Political Organizations Both Less or Nonsupportive (1966) TESOL formed (1975) NABE formed (1983) U. including California. Modern Language . 1989). the English Plus organization was launched and also became influential on the national scene. & TESOL supported English Plus The legislation passed in 10 states. the organization continues to be active. Walter Cronkite.S. and Advisory Board member. In most recent years.

Lam. However. the Linguistic Society of America. 1992b). Winter/Spring 1993 Association. when Congress authorized resources for bilingual education training in institutes of higher education (García. children scored higher in sink-or-swim classrooms. most of the closer looks at bilingual education programs have been under the guise of program evaluation. teacher training in bilingual education is remarkably recent. to what end. Table 5 Bilingual Education Programs/Evaluation and Research More Supportive Less or Nonsupportive (1974) Higher education training programs in bilingual education developed (1977-78) AIR Study (1983) Baker deKantor report (1985) Willig reanalyzed Baker deKantor Research in this area is significantly wanting (q. The authors concluded that there was no consistent significant impact on the LEP (Limited-English-Proficient) students’ education. The 1983 Baker and deKanter report reviewed 28 studies on bilingual education. and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.v. 1992b) (see Table 5). In fact. However. they reported that in English reading.. dating to 1974. 1992). and the . and if so. three studies stand out in the debate. One is the AIR report of an evaluation of 38 Spanish-English federally funded bilingual education programs (AIR.48 Bilingual Research Journal. In the mid-1960s. substantial bilingual education initiatives surfaced (García. 17:1&2. 1975). Bilingual Education Programs: Evaluation and Research. Part of the controversy over bilingualism involves questions of whether we should have bilingual education programs in our schools.

significant events marked shifting attitudes toward bilingualism. and thousands of cases were litigated in courts over individuals’ public use of languages other than English. English-only sentiments grew markedly. perhaps a right to preserve one’s heritage. many states enacted legislation prohibiting public instruction in languages other than English. from pre-Colonial times to the late 1800s. as well as strong response. From the colonial days into the mid-1800s bilingualism was widespread and politically protected. Federal movement was clearly in the direction of broadening and strengthening opportunities for helping individuals to learn English. In general. Summary and Lessons Learned A pattern emerged in the development of views on bilingualism in the United States from pre-colonial times to present.Views on Bilingualism in the United States 49 authors concluded there was no consistent evidence to support the effectiveness of transitional bilingual education (Baker and deKanter. with the exception of the work of U. might be considered more subdued in tone. intensifying from around 1920 and still present today. the period from the mid-1950s to present. recent enactments of official English legislation in 10 states also suggests . Nor were the power and authority of either the judicial system or federal organizations such as the Office of Civil Rights fully exercised to support bilingualism. Maintenance of native language was seen as a right. federal and state power and authority to use policy and financial fortitude to encourage bilingualism were not yielded. At the state level. important government documents were printed in languages other than English. rather than fully backing bilingual programs. In the 1880s through the early 1900s. and many schools used languages other than English for everyday instruction. Among these events were: United States imposition of English as the mainstream school language in Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Whereas the period from the 1880s to the mid-1900s was filled with strident and overt challenges to bilingualism. of bilingualism. Willig (1985) reported a meta-analysis of 23 of the 28 studies reviewed by Baker and deKanter and concluded there were small-to-moderate effects in favor of bilingual education. English. There was early generalized acceptance. perhaps even embracement. various directions and positions may have been taken. For example. From around 1880.S. in a pivotal piece. 1983). However. However.

. and/or a general inability to communicate with the newcomers. the English-only movement may have gained more ground than those supporting bilingualism. instability can lead to fear of the unknown. because in only one case was native-language support required. bilingualism was at least accepted and protected. Notably. Winter/Spring 1993 movement toward stronger emphasis on English development than on bilingualism. although considerable program evaluation occurred. increased job competition. Finally. very little research on bilingual education was conducted. Among political organizations.50 Bilingual Research Journal. if not widely appreciated or embraced as a societal benefit. In the following section. It is likely that increasing immigration creates a feeling of instability among citizens. such as political instability and economic problems did not seem to deter a prevailing sentiment favoring bilingual protections. First. An important coincident condition at least during colonial times was a generalized dedication to the spirit of individual rights and freedoms or to will or moral principle. in pre-colonial and colonial times. major court decisions regarding bilingual issues were rare. The first three history lessons may help to explain why widespread acceptance of bilingualism currently might be difficult. decisions might generally be considered only weak victories. A second lesson from history is that peak immigration can be associated with decline in acceptance of bilingualism. The feeling of instability could be due to an unsettling aura of change. recalcitrance and increased conservatism. It is also not insignificant that the plaintiffs in the few notable court cases held during this period were members of language-minority groups. The shifts in views on bilingualism in the United States are associated with configurations of selected factors. Normally. with none in the last decade. 17:l&2. such dedication to principle does not generally seem to take precedence over other considerations such as the economy or health issues. I will describe the conditions inferred from this review that seem most closely associated with various attitudes toward bilingualism and then relate what is learned from history to our current situation. and therefore. Insistence on using status quo language is one manifestation of such recalcitrance. in an effort to protect and save the here-and-now. Today. Other simultaneous factors. Even in the landmark court cases.

technology also seems to make the world become smaller and smaller. One lesson from this brief review is that gradually.S. currently. lessons learned from the history of how bilingualism has been viewed in the United Sates may help us to understand selected aspects of current positions on bilingualism. bilingualism could take on an unprecedented preeminence in our society. and as a result. were also coincident with changes in predisposition toward supporting bilingualism. even desire for isolationism. A third history lesson is that when the United States is involved in strife in other parts of the world. and illegal entrants have generally increased. more international connections are made in the business world. in the citizenry. refugees. dramatic structural changes in the workplace. In sum. citizens by these individuals. As language minorities continue to grow in numbers and increasingly find positions of power and authority. there is increased sentiment toward nationalism. two history lessons applied to present circumstances suggest support for bilingualism may be on the rise. However. Finally. at the same time. Such world-wide involvement could again be associated with lack of support of bilingualism in the United States. This was in part probably due to increased needs for English literacy and orality in the work place. On the other hand. but on the other hand. some current factors are associated with a general public disposition toward greater emphasis on English. 1993).Views on Bilingualism in the United States 51 In the 1980s the largest group of immigrants arrived in the United States since the beginning of the century (McDonnell & Hill. Many currently feel threatened by the societal burden placed on U. as our society becomes increasingly technological. There is no question that many citizens feel that the numbers of immigrants. technology places greater and greater demands on the importance of bilingualism. Today. other factors suggest the possibility of an increasing recognition of societal need for bilingualism. the United States seems constantly involved in other countries’ problems. such as moving from an agricultural to an industrial society. these needs increase almost daily. Nowadays. recalcitrance and conservatism appear to be on the rise. the language of the majority in positions of power and authority (predominantly. The configuration of current . On one hand. Hence. the Anglo-Saxons) became the language of political and social transactions. over time. At least as portrayed by the media.

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